Sen. Charles Scott (R-Casper) believes Wyoming should adopt curricula touting anti-discriminatory language in U.S. and Wyoming founding documents. (Dustin Bleizeffer/WyoFile).

SARATOGA — Wyoming should clarify and impose its own instruction standards regarding “equality and equal rights” rather than anticipate federal mandates to teach critical race theory, according to Sen. Charles Scott (R-Casper).

Scott, chairman of the Joint Education Interim Committee, asked committee members to instruct the Legislative Service Office to draw up a draft bill based on a two-page outline that he authored titled “Instruction on Equality and Equal Rights.” He distributed paper copies of the document to fellow committee members just prior to concluding the committee’s meeting late Monday afternoon in Saratoga.

The committee declined to move the measure to a draft bill on a vote of 7-7 on Tuesday evening.

Several members in opposition said the measure attempted to usurp the authority of the State Board of Education, which has authority to set standards for K-12 instructional directives.

The measure 

The draft measure Scott disseminated Monday stipulated that instruction of equality and equal rights in Wyoming’s K-12 schools shall be based on “principles set forth in the second paragraph of the United States Declaration of Independence and Article 1, Sections 2 and 3 and Article 6, Section 1 of the Constitution of the State of Wyoming.”

The measure would have mandated that students shall be given a copy of the articles beginning in the fourth grade, and the “materials shall be read aloud to the students during class and time shall be provided for an age appropriate discussion of what it means.”

Wyoming Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow (Republican) worries that the Biden administration might make teaching critical race theory a condition of federal funding for public education in Wyoming schools. (Wyoming Department of Education)

Students would also be instructed that “Wyoming is proud that it is the first jurisdiction to permanently provide that men and women have equal rights to vote and to seek and hold elected office and further that the bill providing this equality passed at the first session of the Wyoming Territorial Legislature in 1869 so Wyoming has never denied this equality since its citizens had control of their political system.”

Facts about “slavery and race based discrimination by law and by custom shall be taught in an age appropriate fashion,” Scott’s draft measure continued. “The historical struggles to end slavery and discrimination shall be taught as an effort to live up to our founding principles and as being aided by those principles.”

Teachers and school personnel “are encouraged to teach that it is wrong to be unfair to anyone or treat anyone differently based on the color of their skin or their ethnic background.”

If the federal government conditions any federal funding to “teaching contrary” to the principles, Scott’s draft measure concluded, Wyoming’s Superintendent of Public Instruction “shall refuse to accept the federal funding and shall not comply with the federal requirement.”

Critical race theory

The term critical race theory refers to a broad set of American academic analysis and study of systemic discrimination rooted in the nation’s history that helps explain continuing biases and disparities, according to scholars

Several states have initiated measures to restrict the instruction of critical race theory in public schools, fearing the Biden administration may make such teaching a condition for federal funding of public schools. No such mandate exists to date.

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The idea of a potential mandate gained momentum after the 2020 election of President Joe Biden and his revocation, by executive order, of President Trump’s 1776 Commission. The commission rebuked a perceived narrative within the 1619 Project that the foundation of the United States was based in racial oppression that still manifests in inequalities today.

“Rather than just be against something the feds might or might not ask us to do, I think it’s much better to have a positive approach and to teach equality based on what we’ve put in [Wyoming’s] Constitution and what was put in the Declaration of Independence,” Scott told WyoFile on Monday. “If we do it this way, if they require us to teach something that is opposed to this [Scott’s pending bill draft], then it would be an ability to turn the funds down.”

Sen. Chris Rothfuss (D-Laramie) voted against the measure and said it is a clear deviation from the Wyoming Constitution and long-established division of powers that prioritizes local control over how to meet curriculum standards set by the State Board of Education.

“For us to go down a path that has this magnitude of importance where we start prescribing and dictating educational content on the supposition that someone might make a request,” Rothfuss said. “Wow.”

Wyoming leaders poised to oppose CRT

The concern that the federal government might effectively mandate curriculum by making its adoption a condition of federal education funding appeared in another draft measure that Scott put forth to the Education Committee.

Draft measure Education-prohibition of acceptance of federal funds would have allowed the state superintendent to prohibit spending “any” federal education funds if doing so requires the “use of specific textbooks or teaching materials contrary to article 7, section 11 of the Wyoming constitution [sic].”

That measure failed Tuesday on a vote of six yeas and eight nays. 

Critics have alleged that a lack of clear standards for civics and history in Wyoming’s K-12 schools invites outside special interests to push particular narratives.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow, a Republican, issued a press release on May 4 alleging that the U.S. Department of Education’s American History and Civics Education grant programs under the Biden administration “is an attempt to normalize teaching controversial and politically trendy theories about America’s history.”

Wyoming Republican Sen. Cynthia Lummis denounced unsubstantiated claims that the Biden administration is moving to make facets of the 1619 Project mandatory curricula for public schools as a condition of federal funding.

“Students and teachers should have an open and honest dialogue in the classroom about our nation’s history,” Lummis said in a June 14 statement. “However, the 1619 Project is pushing an anti-American agenda and distorted, revisionist history with hard-earned taxpayer dollars.”

Dustin Bleizeffer

Dustin Bleizeffer is a Report for America Corps member covering energy and climate at WyoFile. He has worked as a coal miner, an oilfield mechanic, and for 22 years as a statewide reporter and editor primarily...

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  1. Tell the truth and it will set you free. I certainly don’t trust the Wyoming legislature to determine what kids should be taught. Debunk lies and myths, including the myth of the cowboy.

  2. I agree with Charlie that this should be handled at at the state level if possible. As I understand it, the essence of Critical Race Theory is to acknowledge and study the negative aspects of our history. If we face these we will be better prepared to move forward and erase the lasting effects of slavery and genocide of Indians. If this is done, it should strengthen patriotism and hope. Some people say that CRT will teach kids to hate America. I don’t think that is the intent, but it could happen. A strong state standard could eliminate this risk.

  3. I happened to turn on KGAB and Glenn was reading your article and introduced Wyofile (not named) as a partisan news site. I wonder if he does that with the Wyoming Liberty Group or Cowboy State Daily when he reads/uses their content? The love of Susan Gore is $trong with Glenn and he will not let you forget it.

    With that said it does appear the Senator Scott gets the premise of the 1619 project with this quote: ““The historical struggles to end slavery and discrimination shall be taught as an effort to live up to our founding principles and as being aided by those principles.”

    I never got the outrage over Colin Kaepernick or the 1619 Project as they are pointing out that America is still not living up to its ideals and requires work. Apparently the outrage comes from what I consider obvious, America works just fine for whites, whom have been at the levers of power since our Founding.

    I learned a very sterile view of American History but it seems clear that children do not have enough experience to discern all the nuances of history. I was always paying attention to what was going on around me and when I read the Making of Ferguson by EPI’s Richard Rothstein and The 1619 Project, American History made more sense than what I was taught as a child.

    I was told a great deal of “lies” as a child, supposedly for my own good, but that only results in less respect for those claiming authority when they say they are reveling the “truth”. See my first paragraph.

    Never fear white Wyoming, with local control the history that will be taught to your children will be white washed and self censored, just like the history taught in the South concerning the Civil War as it was about State’s Rights and not Slavery. OY the 10th Amendment nullifies the ideals of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. That idea is ludicrous but based on the Lost Cause rhetoric still coming out of Southern States, telling that “white lie” works.

  4. Thank you, Dustin!

    You and so many other REAL reporters in Wyoming are underappreciated. Thank you for covering this story, and thank you for being a critical thinker/writer who gives us a balanced view. We don’t need media outlets spewing lies and repeating the liars’ talking points.

    As you say: “Wyoming Republican Sen. Cynthia Lummis denounced UNSUBSTANTIATED CLAIMS…”

    Cynthia Lummis is a liar. She creates these imaginary boogeymen to scare people. She continues to spout Trump’s Big Lie. As the first woman elected by Wyoming to the US Senate, I expected more from her. But in her first official action, she made UNSUBSTANTIATED CLAIMS to attack and voted to not certify another state’s vote (as if she had personal knowledge of fraud, which did not in fact exist). On 1/6, she blamed the Capital attack on Antifa.

    Cynthia Lummis should RESIGN. Likewise for our senior Senator, John Barrasso. Doctor Barrasso (an actual MD) is ignoring his many years of medical training and practice every time he spews Republican lies about COVID . I can only assume he lies to please his master (EXXON? Trump? Putin? all 3? idk) and earn some money. Maybe a lot of money, for lies. Wyoming needs honest fighters in the US Senate, not these liars.

    I agree with part of Charlie Scotts’ premise: that the federal government should not be telling Wyoming what to teach our children. But I also believe that Wyoming’s children should be taught the letter and the spirit of the law, in the context of truth. Wyoming’s history includes many successes and failures, all of which are relevant to understanding our past. In my opinion, The Equality State has not and is not living up to its motto. Instead, Wyoming seems to be willingly governed by liars who reject all responsibility for their lies. Why are they governing us???? We can do better.

    Yet, the powers-that-be within Wyoming Republican party are just as resistant to change as they are to accepting the truth. These liars want to eliminate anyone who is not lockstep with leadership’s lies. The koolaid-drinking brownshirt enforcers (aka Wyoming GOP) are specifically targeting MODERATE Republicans who refuse to lie. What kind of special idiots believe their own lies, and then punish others for calling out their lack of cloth? Republicans are fueling Wyoming’s reputation for being the home of hateful and stubborn stupidity. Yet they continue to lie and deny truth. With their recent censorship of truth (Liz Cheney), there seems to be no end to the GOP minions’ insistence on compliance with The Big Lie.

    And Wyoming’s power elite, what have they done? Lied. Spied on the opposition party. Now seeking to consolidate power amongst fewer men (specifically, white male property owners). The most influential politicians in the State Capitol are those who have lined their pockets with industry $. While the gravy train might be switching tracks, the rich in Wyoming continue to be strongly opposed to responsible government.

    We are witnessing the same pattern of social behavior, economics, and politics that led to Hitler’s rise, the Great Depression, the Holocaust, and World War II. Will we continue to ignore and even deny those history lessons? I can’t help but notice that the biggest GOP liars are specifically going out of their way to deny the Holocaust even happened. Clearly, those world events are relevant to us today.

    You don’t have to be a scholar to know right from wrong, and truth from lies. Republicans are failing to honor even the simplest of sand box rules. They are throwing sand and then denying it. They are treating everyone like dirt, and then pretending they did nothing wrong as they sweep us under the carpet. Have you noticed how quick and lethal Republicans have become to quell dissent with police/military action? Republicans are attacking our most important freedoms: Voting and Freedom of Speech.

    The Night of the Long Knives (the bloody purge that secured Hitler’s power) was a terrifyingly effective way to eliminate moderates from all positions of leadership in Nazi Germany (they were all murdered). Today’s Republicans are working to eliminate moderates from all positions of leadership in Wyoming, and in America. Today’s GOP wants to purge from the party all those who do not enthusiastically and consistently spew their lies, especially The Big Lie. Given the events of 1/6, we don’t seem far from the knives coming out. Don’t ignore the potential for more violence.

    We all need to stand up to these bullies. Call out their lies. Speak up for truth. American democracy depends on it.

    1. I Agree. I hope people awaken before it’s simply too late, and we’re about at that point, if we haven’t already passed it…

  5. Sad to say, but if I had school-age kids, I would find some way to get them educated in a private school. Letting the morons in the legislature dictate to teachers is horrifying.

    1. it’s getting ugly..

      it’s good that this one was voted down. But, that doesn’t mean the next one will. it’s only a matter of time before it’s tried again.

      our State “leaders” can’t govern. what makes them think they can be successful in education?